The Fiio x Jade Audio JH3 or Fiio JH3 is one of two new products from the company, and its all new subsidiary brand – Jade Audio. With an aim to employ a direct-sales model and focus on empirical acoustic knowledge – the company employ a core members with expertise in sound reproduction. With a fiery appetite for research and development, the Fiio JH3 employs all of its parent brands economies of scale to produce an affordable offering – the Fiio JH3 priced at $59.99.
A Fiio product is always a pleasure to unbox and the JH3 is no exception. It comes in a small rectangular box with a colour image of the IEMs on the front and bearing the HiRes certification logo. The product name Fiio is shown on the front and “Jade Audio” in a script font, appears on the side of the box.
The IEMs themselves are presented in a foam cut-out contained in a “pelican” type box similar to that supplied with the FD3, and the 2-pin cable is also stored inside. A separate cardboard box houses the spare eartips.
The contents comprise: JH3 IEMs, 2-pin 4 core braided cable, 3 pairs black narrow bore tips, 3 pairs grey/red wide bore tips, 1 pair & black foam tips. The medium size narrow bore tips are pre-fitted on the IEMs.
Build and Design
The JH3 is a hybrid design, employing a large 13.6mm dynamic driver for the low frequencies and two custom balanced armature drivers for the midrange and treble. Internally, a pressure relief system, with a vent adjoining the 2-pin socket, reduces distortion and driver flex.
The earpieces have a metal faceplate with an alternating pattern of matt and shiny curved lines. The rest of the body is formed from a clear smoked plastic allowing the components to be seen and there is a small circular vent for the dynamic driver in the middle of the inner surface.
The two balanced armatures are placed in the nozzle, and the clear plastic 2-pin sockets sit slightly proud of the surface. The build quality is very good.
The 2-pin cable is a 4-core design which is quite tightly braided, supple and fits well. The material is single crystal copper. The branded Y-split and chin slider are similar to that on the FD3, and are made of metal and finished in black with silver accents.
The 90° 3.5mm plug is made of black plastic and has a sturdy flexible strain relief. The angled 2-pin connectors are also formed from black plastic and feature channel identification.
Fit and Isolation
Using the pre-fitted tips, the fit was excellent, feeling comfortable and light, allowing for extended listening sessions. The isolation was also above average with only the loudest external sounds noticeable when listening at a medium volume on the source components.
The JH3 was evaluated using an Xduoo X20 DAP as the primary source and the stock cable and pre-fitted tips were used. I also employed a smartphone and a CD player. A “burn-in” period of 100 hours was allowed to settle down the dynamic driver. Adequate volume was obtained with all sources with no need for additional amplification.
The immediate impression of the JH3 was of a lively, dynamic sound. The overall profile was a gentle W shape, just on the bright side of neutral, with a powerful and well-textured bass, a clear and expressive midrange and a clean, crisp and extended treble with copious detail.
There was a “light and airy” quality which was refreshing. The soundstage was extensive and imaging fairly precise, with separation very evident. There was a good balance between musicality and technical ability.
The JH3’s bass was somewhat elevated with a solid sub-bass displaying good “rumble” and a punchy mid-bass full of energy. The 13.6mm bass driver certainly moved a lot of air, endowing the low end with unusually fine extension, weight and depth. The definition and speed were also very good.
The timbre was natural with a touch of warmth and the resolution admirable, especially at the price. The excellent extension ensured an accurate reproduction of recorded ambience and the transient performance was snappy and incisive with little evidence of overhang. All in all, the JH3 was very impressive in the low frequencies.
The midrange showed a gradual rise from the boundary with the bass region and received just a little extra warmth from the bass which suffused the lower region with an attractive bloom, yet without colouring it adversely. This helped with cellos and male vocals which gained in authority and tone.
The chief of the midrange was a little forward, resulting in an overall “W” profile and there was plenty of detail on offer as well as above-average clarity and a natural timbre. Towards the treble area the output remained stable, avoiding any undue harshness. The tonality was a touch cooler and brighter than neutral which enhanced the soundstage and imaging.
The treble was bright, energetic and highly detailed, as befits a design with the high frequency drivers placed within the nozzle. In many designs, this leads to harshness and an over-bright presentation, but this was generally not the case with the JH3.
This lively and engaging performance produced excellent separation and layering unexpected at the price, and although technically proficient, it did not prevent the JH3 from delivering a satisfying musicality and an addictive rhythmic character encouraging further listening.
Detail retrieval was outstanding with the finest and most subtle elements clearly audible. Occasionally, the JH3 flirted with harshness and the tonality was slightly unnatural, but this was infrequent and only occurred with certain genres and at high volume.
Soundstage and Imaging
Along with the bass, the soundstage was perhaps the best feature of the JH3. Possessing excellent layering and separation and precise imaging, the staging was expansive in all three dimensions with the reproduction of studio effects such as reverb and phasing particularly well-rendered.
Classical orchestras were depicted authentically with a sense of space, the reverberation of cathedral organs was very convincing and more intimately recorded pieces displayed an appropriate scale.
For comparisons I have chosen three dual hybrid models (1DD + 1BA) in a similar price range to the JH3.
Tin Hifi T3 ($69)
The bullet-shaped T3 is getting a little long in the tooth now. However, with stellar all-metal build quality and perhaps one of the best stock cables at the price, it still remains competitive.
The combination of a 10mm composite dynamic driver and a quality Knowles 33518 balanced armature produces a wide frequency range and a fine soundstage performance with the traditional Tin Hi-fi neutral/bright tuning.
The JH3 matches it in soundstage and treble but has a more powerful bass and the delivery is more energetic compared with the more measured presentation of the T3 and might be described as a “fun” tuning, where the T3 sounds a little more natural.
KBEAR Lark ($29)
KBEAR’s dual hybrid Lark provides a neutral profile and quality sound at a very reasonable price. It features a 10mm dual magnet bass driver and KBEAR’s “custom” BA which is produced by Bellsing.
Build quality is similar to that of the JH3 but the cable is not of the same standard. The Lark’s neutral delivery and clear treble contrasts with the JH3’s more lively and exciting character and powerful bass. Both possess a fine soundstage but the JH3 is superior in this regard. Although around twice the price, the JH3 is definitely worth the extra outlay.
TRI i4 ($69)
The i4 is another hybrid employing the Knowles 33518 BA, this time coupled with a 10mm composite DD with a metal dome. The build quality is exemplary with full metal earpieces and secure MMCX connection. The cable is serviceable but not up to the standard of the T3 or JH3. The i4 displays a warm and gentle V profile with a spacious stage.
The treble is “polite” but remains clear. The midrange is deceptively detailed and the lower region has a mid-bass emphasis with a slight sub-bass roll off. The JH3 in comparison is more expressive and immediate in contrast to the relaxed and “laid back” presentation of the i4 and is more involving to listen to.
Fiio and Jade Audio have really hit the mark with the JH3. Possessing a lively, engaging and entertaining sound and suffering from no major shortcomings, it represents superb value. It matches, and even exceeds the performance of well-regarded and more expensive models. There is little to criticise here.
The timbre is generally very natural and it has a superb bass, a clear and well-tuned midrange and highly detailed treble, and the soundstage performance is excellent. The balance between technicality and musicality is well-judged. The treble occasionally shows some unwanted sharpness of tone especially at high volume (Fletcher-Munson curve) and there is a touch of bass bleed into the midrange, but these are minor issues.
This being the first of the collaborations with Jade Audio, I look forward to their next release with anticipation. The JH3 really impresses and should be in your shortlist if you are looking for a quality IEM in this price bracket.
Fiio JH3 Specifications:
|Drivers:||1 x Dynamic, 2 x BA|
|Impedance:||28Ω @ 1kHz|
|Frequency Response:||10Hz – 40kHz|